Regardless of your Nic Fit build of choice, you will find yourself reaching for a playset of these cards as auto-includes.
Explorer is what makes the deck tick. He’s a ramp effect that is hugely undercosted, at the expense of also ramping the opponent. As mentioned above, many Legacy decks run 0-1 basic lands, so the first Explorer trigger doesn’t give much value, and subsequent ones give none at all. Even decks which do run a lot of basics don’t often have many uses for their sixth or seventh mana source, such as D&T.
Explorer also brings the lands in untapped. This has many advantages – primarily, it means that barring instant speed effects, you get to use the additional mana before your opponent does, and he acts as something of a ritual in terms of playing a big card immediately rather than next turn. Note that if you sacrifice Explorer to cast Cabal Therapy, you give your opponent lands before the Therapy flashback resolves, meaning even if they are tapped out they can still potentially Brainstorm or cast other instants before Therapy resolves.
Veteran Explorer is a rather awkward topdeck late game, which can be an issue. Most of the rest of our cards have a very high power level when drawn lategame, but a few Explorers in a row can really mess you up. As such card draw and filtering is very useful for us, especially if it is repeatable. Explorer is also vulnerable to exiling removal such as Swords to Plowshares – note that if your resolve an Explorer and your next action in the same phase is to sacrifice it to Therapy or similar, your opponent never has an opportunity to STP it.
This card is one of the hardest cards to properly use in the format, but it is absolutely backbreaking when used effectively. Therapy can be an x-for-1, gives us a very reliable sacrifice outlet, clears the way for countermagic, and generally does everything we need a card to do. Because it requires the sacrifice of a creature to be effective, we usually want a number of disposable creatures in the deck beyond Veteran Explorer. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice something else if you need to (like an Eternal Witness), though, if getting the card out of the opponent’s hand right now is more important.
Cabal Therapy allows us to sacrifice explorer as a cost which can’t be responded to, allowing us to play around Swords to Plowshares. It also doesn’t need to resolve to work, meaning we can sacrifice a Vet even into a Chalice of the Void on 1.
Usually casting Therapy on turn one on the play against an unknown opponent is very unreliable. If you have no other turn one plays, it can be okay – usually you want to name Brainstorm, since this gives you the highest hit rate. I strongly prefer making any other available turn one play given the choice, and saving Therapy until you have at least seen the opponent’s land drop, which helps with the hit rate significantly. Having one of the primary components of the deck’s engine also interact positively against combo decks helps a lot, especially since Nic Fit is generally slow and so can have issues with fast interaction.
Green Sun’s Zenith
As mentioned above, Veteran Explorer is very important to the deck’s smooth functioning, but we don’t want to be topdecking it lategame. We also want to be playing big threats, but filling the deck with large monsters means we do nothing when we don’t draw an explorer. As such, Green Sun’s Zenith is a core component of the build – letting us find Explorer when we need it on turn two, but also improving our topdecks and finding powerful finishers later in the game. GSZ also lets us get an Explorer trigger with a Chalice of the Void on the board, and allows us to run a toolbox of singleton utility creatures. Zenith does tend to skew our creature base towards green – fortunately there are a lot of solid creatures in Green. In particular, having our finisher options be green helps a lot with finding them as the game goes on, since we don’t really want to be playing a large number of five- or six-mana spells. Zenith also allows us to play Dryad Arbor, letting us increase our numbers of turn-one plays.
Some testing has been done with other creature tutoring variants – Living Wish, Worldly Tutor, Eladamri’s Call, Traverse the Ulvenwald – but while most are functional at finding a lategame threat, Zenith is by far the most reliable at getting an Explorer onto the battlefield on turn two, which probably the most important use of this cardslot.
Depending on the build of Nic Fit you’re going for (i.e., see Nic Fit Variations), you will find yourself needing some combination of the following cards. These cards are more impactful in certain shells more-so than in others but all around great cards in the main two colors of the deck.
Once we have accelerated out of the 1-3 land stage Legacy so often revolves around, we need to actually deal with whatever our opponent is doing. Against pretty much every fair deck in the format, Pernicious Deed does this excellently. This is functionally a sweeper for around 5-6 mana, but often keeps our larger threats alive. Deed also deals with troublesome noncreature permanents like equipment, destroys all creature tokens for just three mana, and generally keeps low to the ground creature decks from killing you too quickly. It is particularly solid against Tarmogoyf decks, and also kills Legacy mainstays like Leovold and True-Name Nemesis cleanly which is always nice. Against Elves it is very powerful (if a bit on the slow side) and against Death and Taxes is also does a ton of work – although be aware of Phyrexian Revoker. Deed can be pretty much directly interchanged with Toxic Deluge – Deluge doesn’t kill artifacts or enchantments as reliably, but it is significantly cheaper to sweep with, which is particularly relevant against Elves and D&T. Usually whichever choice you do not go for goes into the sideboard for those matchups where you want more sweepers.
Note that this is the piece of removal which is usually cut from the maindeck last against Storm decks, since it is an answer to Empty the Warrens. A good storm player usually won’t go for Empty against us because of this card, though – you usually have enough other cards that are bad against storm (creature spot removal, 5-6 mana spells) that you don’t need to cut the Deeds.
A singleton Eternal Witness makes its way into most Nic Fit decks. As a Green Sun’s Zenith target, this choice allows us to turn Zenith into additional removal or discard which is otherwise rather hard to find on a green creature at a reasonable cost. Witness is also a disposable body for Cabal Therapy, which is always nice to have around. With the presence of Deathrite Shaman in the format, recursion isn’t as good as it maybe could be – some opponents will also sideboard in graveyard hate against us – but do note that artifacts, enchantments and planeswalkers can’t be targeted by Deathrite, so go ahead and recur that Pernicious Deed or similar.
A new addition to the deck’s creature suite, Tireless Tracker has been gaining in popularity ever since its release. As a 3 mana 3/2, he isn’t a particularly impressive body, but if you make a land drop immediately after playing him, even if he is removed immediately you still got a 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 which is just fine. We usually make enough mana to crack the clues, and he turns later Explorers into more / useful cards, and kills people really quite fast if ignored. Costing only 3 mana, he’s also cheap enough to play without needing to ramp much first, which helps a lot – many of our other larger threats end up stranded in hand against mana denial or a countered Explorer, where Tracker has much better odds of being castable anyway. Tracker also lets us draw an additional card per turn vs Leovold by cracking in the opponent’s turn, which is handy.
You would be hard pressed to find many Nic Fit lists without Thragtusk present in them beyond certain variants. Thragtusk is stabilization and 8 power across two bodies and a LTB trigger for 5 mana, and is one of the most efficient creatures ever printed. Thragtusk is also Jace proof, as bouncing a Thragtusk is a poor idea in general. One of the more common tricks with Thragtusk is to use it with Cabal Therapy, sacrificing it to get the token and then regrowthing the card with Nissa, Vital Force for value. Often times, Thragtusk is a sheer finisher / beater who only takes so many swings to get the job done.
Since the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top, Library has become the go-to for card selection. Library does have its issues – it is not good friends with Pernicious Deed, enemy Leovolds shut it down quite thoroughly, and it is quite slow, but there aren’t many better options available. Mirri’s Guile is a secondary choice which does similar things, but never provides card advantage in exchange for the cheaper costs and resistance to Leovold. Some testing has also been done with Scroll Rack, but vulnerability to Kolaghan’s Command is no fun. Currently most lists are on 0-2 Libraries, since you don’t really want to see multiples and in some matchups don’t want them at all. If you want library manipulation though they are probably a better bet than oneshot effects like Painful Truths, particularly if you have a lot of lifegain in the deck to mitigate the card-draw cost.
Decay is a catchall answer to problem creatures and permanents. Most of the time we run around 1 or 2, possibly more if we are on Deluge rather than Deed. It does have the issues of being relatively expensive, bad against unfair decks, and not dealing with larger threats (which are often the ones we care about). It’s a nice backup to have but a lot of what is answered by Decay is dealt with incidentally by Deed and similar cards. In particular, white builds will often not run it at all, since they have access to many other powerful removal options.
Another new addition from SOI, Brutality does a lot of useful things for the deck. It is overcosted for the effects you get, but this is made up for in sheer versatility. Most of the time you won’t be discarding to it – we don’t have enough graveyard recursion to do that very often – but it is pretty good if you’re just choosing between killing a small aggressive creature and taking a spell from the opponent’s hand. Having a creature removal spell which is not blank against combo is a big deal – most of your other removal is stone cold useless against decks like Show and Tell or Storm, but Brutality is instead still one of your best cards to be playing there. It also pretty much singlehandedly gives us a solid Burn matchup, since they often want to trade their cards for your life total, so being able to trade 3 of your cards for (functionally) 3 of theirs is a great deal and stabilizes very well.
Nissa, Vital Force
5-mana Nissa is one of the best planeswalkers we have available. She’s just cheap enough to reasonably expect to cast against most opponents – though she probably gets sideboarded out against tempo and fast combo – and does a lot of useful things. She protects herself from most ground creatures, and lets you trade a land for a Reality Smasher or Gurmag Angler which is solid. She also allows us to recur Pernicious Deeds and other Planeswalkers. Her ultimate is a huge grinding engine and allows you to thoroughly overwhelm control decks like Miracles, and she threatens to do so as soon as she comes onto the board which doesn’t give them very much time to react. Being able to come down and immediately swing with a 5/5 is also pretty solid – especially since creature removal doesn’t matter that much – and Nissa is one of our best answers to Jace the Mind Sculptor.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer / Nissa, Sage Animist
Transform Nissa is nowhere near as much of a haymaker as her 5-mana big sister, but she still does plenty of work. Usually you want to wait until you can play her and immediately transform her (preferably with a fetchland open, so she can’t be killed in response), make an Ashaya token and then start ticking her up. Like most other good planeswalkers, she protects herself while providing card advantage every turn. Even if you have to cast her early or she gets removed before she flips, you still got a 2 for 1 out of her, and in an emergency she is a body that didn’t really cost you a card. Many games against control decks are won by a Nissa ticking up for several turns and eventually ulting for the kill – just make sure your opponent doesn’t have an instant speed sweeper available to Armageddon you with. Nissa VS also has the major upside of being a planeswalker which can be found with Green Sun’s Zenith, which is a powerful tool to have available. Most of the time if you are running a Nissa VS you want a third Forest in your deck, to increase the odds of having one still available when she hits the field.
Meren of Clan Nel Toth
Generally considered a value recursion engine, Meren can be incredibly strong in various builds of Nic Fit, providing utility to get back creatures to hand for recasting or to simply bring them straight into play. Meren is a card that gets actively better with a utility sac outlet such as Phyrexian Tower, since any death trigger will grant you experience counters. Meren is especially effective with cards like Thragtusk, since being able to gain life and create a token are very strong.